Friday, October 21, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know It, Truly

It's October 21, the last day of the world as we know it.  Harold Camping has again (falsely) prophesied that the world would end and Christ would return. Camping's right about one thing though. It is the end of the world as we know it.

You see, what we knew, before the Millerites, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Harold Campings was a Christian world that truly believed in the second coming of Christ. Our world was just one through which we were passing through, but we attempted to do good here because our Master was returning, and out of love and fear, we wanted to be prepared. Being prepared in the Bible meant that we were refraining from evil and doing good. Now, with the advent of these soothsayers, mockers come with their mocking (and the church joins them by mocking God with lives pursued in selfishness rather than selflessness).

The world we had before the soothsayers was one that took Christian claims seriously. Pastors didn't play around with the message of the gospel. They didn't try to con people out of all of their money, or seek out new ways to "do church." They were concerned about the message they had been given, paying careful attention to not only delivering it but living by it. After all, the Master could return at any time, and we did not wish to be ashamed (or worse).

In Luke 12, Christ teaches his disciples about the fleeting nature of the world and how our thoughts and actions should evidence a focus on the world to come, which itself is hailed by His return. It is this eschatological focus that is to cause us to think seriously about our lives. After giving a general admonition to all who follow Him, He turns to Christian leaders in vv. 42-49:

And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. "Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. "But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, [both] men and women, and to eat and drink and get  drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect [him,] and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know [it,] and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!

What the Harold Campings of the world have done for us is to remove our focus from the eschatological by making it sound ridiculous. Like the boy who cried wolf, we just don't believe it anymore, and our lack of belief in what is to come influences the nature of our (un)belief in what is present. These soothsayers have made our Christian community much less Christian than they were before. By attempting to take away our belief in His coming, they tempt us toward unbelief in all things. We become disillusioned because we had our hopes in something that we thought was promised, but never was.

Yes, it gets people to talk about it. Yes, it brings out the passage that corrects this folly (that no one knows the day nor the hour). But it does much more harm than good IMHO. We now are ignoring the warning of Christ and have sought to build up our storehouses here. We use people rather than seek to be useful to them. We are drunk with the pleasures of the world, and our ministers encourage us to do the same (because they wish to do the same). We are filled with idolatry and adultery because we believe that our Master isn't coming for a long time. We are as selfish as those who have only this present world as their reward, and yet, both the ending of our lives here and the ending of the world hasten toward us through death and the coming of Christ. The soothsayers have just caused us to think of such things as a joke.

So the prophecy of Harold Camping is true, you see, in a very self-fulfilling way. It is the end of the world as we know it today, as it is every time we make lite of His coming, because it chips away at our faith and love for God and others with an eternal view to what good we ought to do and what evil from which we ought to refrain, and replaces it with a life lived in the moment, a life lived for the self, a world that is much darker than the one where truth was proclaimed in love and sacrifice was given without hesitation. Love has become nice, as we seek to only medicate each other with kind words as we slip slowly into the coming night. There is no truth to be believed, no good to be performed, no evil from which we ought to refrain, because there is no hope to look forward to a world where the reign of what is false and evil is replaced by truth and good. The future is Christless, so the present is Christless.

But if we, who seek to believe past the false prophecies of wayward men, place our gaze on that coming day, knowing that it will come, whether others believe in it or not, our lives today will be renewed. We will be restored from the disillusionment of the false hopes of the past and present, we will mount up with wings like eagles, and take flight in faith and good, living our lives for He who is present through His Holy Spirit now and will be present with us on a day to come. If we do choose to believe instead that our Master is coming, we will stand ready with lives that have been prepared to live in eternity, precisely, because we have already been living there. So I hope, in this way, it is the end of the world as we know it today, but one that brings us into a renewed focus on our eternal future, so that it fills all of our moments now with the Person and the world to come.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless . . . (2 Pet 3:10-14)

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